USC football's offensive line was a liability for much of 2020. Can they get their groove back under a new coach?
The Trojans produced two first-round offensive linemen over the last two years (assuming Alijah Vera-Tucker is ultimately selected on Day 1). The problem now is there are no obvious first-rounders left.
They could get better, but sell USC's offensive line in 2021 anyway
The good news comes first: USC returns four of five starting offensive linemen including veteran starters Jalen McKenzie, Andrew Vorhees, Liam Jimmons and Brett Neilon.
The bad news is those four weren't particularly good together as a unit in 2020 and the best of the bunch -- Vera-Tucker -- is gone.
The best news is USC has a new offensive line coach who is more familiar with the Air Raid attack. Clay McGuire intends to revamp the Trojans' blocking schemes, particularly in the run game.
Simple changes to the way USC pass and run blocks could make all the difference.
Unfortunately, line coaches rarely work their magic overnight. McGuire needed three years at Washington State before producing an All-Pac-12 first-teamer. At least the guys he'll be coaching at USC have more potential than most of the ones he had available in Pullman.
While working to whip McKenzie, Vorhees, Jimmons and Neilon into shape, McGuire will need to identify a replacement for Vera-Tucker. That could mean moving one of the veterans to left tackle while filling whatever newly-vacant role with an unknown quantity.
Redshirt freshmen like Jonah Monheim, Courtland Ford or Casey Collier should get a look. Justin Dedich, Liam Douglass and Jason Rodriguez have all be waiting their turn to start for longer.
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It still seems most likely one of McKenzie, Vorhees or Jimmons will slide over into that role. They're the ones with starting experience. When it comes to protecting Kedon Slovis, USC will need as close to a sure thing as they can get. The rest can fight for whatever job then opens up.
Troublingly, even if USC settles on what they know in Vorhees, for instance, that's a downgrade from Vera-Tucker. There is no savior on this offensive line. The whole will have to be better than the sum of its parts.
Is that possible? Sure. Is it something to bet on? No. And that's a huge issue for an offense with a ceiling and floor that will be determined directly by the line.